Auricular style  

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Auricular style (Dutch: Kwabstijl, German: Knorpelwerk or Ohrmuschelstil) is a style of ornamental decoration, especially found in Northern Europe of the first half of the 17th century, bridging Northern Mannerism and the Baroque.

A typical example is Cartouche met groot compartiment.

The style was especially important and effective in silversmithing but used in architectural ornamentation and a wide variety of the decorative arts. It uses softly flowing abstract shapes in relief, sometimes asymetrical, whose resemblence to the side view of the cartilage of the human ear gives it its name, or at least its "undulating, slithery and boneless forms occasionally carry a suggestion of the inside of an ear or a conch shell" (Osborne, 1975). It is often associated with stylized marine animal forms, or ambiguous masks and shapes that might be such, which seem to emerge from the rippling, fluid background.



Although precedents have been traced in the graphic designs of Italian Mannerist artists such as Giulio Romano and Enea Vico it can first be found in 1598 in the important ornament book of Northern Mannerism, Architectura: Von Außtheilung, Symmetria und Proportion der Fünff Seulen ..., by Wendel Dietterlin of Stuttgart, in the second edition of 1598. It can be found in the designs of Hans Vredeman de Vries in the Netherlands, and was used most effectively in the hands of the Utrecht silversmiths Paul and Adam van Vianen, and Paul's pupil Johannes Lutma who settled in Amsterdam. Christian van Vianen, a son of Adam, worked in England at the courts of Charles I and Charles II and took the style there.

In metalwork the style was in harmony with the malleable nature of the material, often giving the impression that the object is beginning to melt. It contrasted strongly with the preceding Mannerist style of crowded figurative scenes, as for example in the Lomellini Ewer and Basin of 1620-21, although some works managed to combine the two styles, as in a silver-gilt ewer and basin of 1630, made in Delft and now in Utrecht, with auricular elements replacing strapwork. Most of the key works are in the Netherlands, especially the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, including a ewer by Adam van Vianen (1614), and ewer and basin sets by Paul van Vianen (1613, with Diana and Callisto) and Lutma (1647). The Adam van Vianen set was commissioned by the Amsterdam goldsmiths' guild to commemorate the death of Paul, despite neither brother living in Amsterdam or being a member of the guild. The piece became famous and appears in several still-life paintings. It was raised by a lengthy process of chasing from a single sheet of silver, and chasing was the main technique used in auricular silver.

In other media

The style was also effective in wood and used for furniture and especially picture frames. Different varieties became popular in English (Sunderland frame after Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland) and Dutch frames. Around the mid-century Cardinal Leopoldo de' Medici had his large picture collection, housed in the Pitti Palace in Florence reframed in the auricular style, perhaps influenced by Stefano della Bella. These Medici frames were more three-dimensional than the other frame styles, with more areas both raised or entirely cut through. The framing styles were long-lasting, surviving in use long enough to be reinvigorated by the Rococo.

The style was effective for cartouches, whether in three-dimensional uses or for bookplates and the like. It later influenced Rococo and then Art Nouveau ornament.

See also



  • Das niederländische Ohrmuschelornament, Phänomen und Entwicklung, dargestellt an den Werken und Entwürfen der Goldschmiedefamilien van Vianen und Lutma by Antje-maria Von Graevenitz

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